The time has come for site exploration.
After about a year of waiting, site assignments for the Peru 30 group were finally recieved. Much to my contentment I was placed in the Ancash department of Peru. Specifically, I will be living in a community called Matacoto in the Yungay province.
A family of 8 is waiting for my arrival. Mother, father, grandmother, and five kids– ranging from 3 to 21 years old. Specifically they live in a small annex of Matacoto called Santo Toribio. Nestled in the Santa River valley at the foot of the Cordillera Negra, Matacoto is a community well known for its palta (avocado) production.
Tomorrow we will be meeting our families and officially arriving in site. Until then however, we’ve been exploring Huaraz which is the regional capital of Ancash. I’ve really been enjoying Huaraz. It’s a bigger city but does not consume you like Lima. It also sits in the Santa River valley and surrounded on all sides by towering mountains. Because of its location, it has become a hub for trekking, alpinism and rock climbing. It attracts tourists from all over the world, fostering eclectic coffee shops environments, a multitude of restaurants and hostels. With that being sad, Huaraz is still able to preserve a traditional, high-alpine Peruvian feel.
Today was Dia del Socios. In other words, we got to meet the various counterparts we will be working with in our communities. I was lucky enough to meet Nurse Nelida from the health post and Jose, the psychologist from the school in Matacoto. In between presentations from the regional directors, language coordinators, Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders (PCVLs) and the trainees themselves, we got to spend time with our new coworkers.
Nelida and Jose are both young, passionate and invested in their community. They work hard everyday to improve the wellbeing of the youth in Matacoto. I feel lucky to be able to mix myself into their work. I also feel lucky to follow up a PCV named Stefany. Some trainees are going to be the first volunteers in their sites. Others, like me, will be second generation of volunteer. There are pros and cons to both options, however personally, I feel like being second generation will help me hit the ground running.
Stefany has done great work in Matacoto, and has left lots of opportunities for more growth and sustainable development. In reality, Stefany and I are two small parts of a bigger picture. The youth development program works in 6 year cycles including 3 volunteers. The work we do is incremental and slow. Some of the outputs and outcomes of our work, along with positives changes in community and individual behavior more than likely will not come to fruition while we are in site. There is something oddly comforting about that reality. I am grateful to play a part, in whatever capacity that might be.
We’ve got one more night in Huaraz before meeting our families and moving to site. I plan to spend more time with my fellow trainees, and cook another delicious dinner. Last night, instead of accompanying the rest of the group at dinner in Huaraz, I decided to stay back with another trainee Robin and prepare our own dinner. I am grateful for my host family, and the food they feed me, however it has been ROUGH not being able to cook my own meals. Seeing the fully stocked kitchen in the hosel got me excited. 18 soles later (about $6), Robin and I had all the fixings for lentil soup. Carrots, tomatoes, squash, onion, garlic, cumin, salt and lentils went into the soup. To compliment, we made sure to purchase some fresh bread.
With a quite hostel, low (but cozy ) temperatures and a little rain fall, Robin and shared stories, ate good food, drank tea and ate dark chocolate for desert. I learned a lot from Robin. She is older than I, and the wisest (in age and life experiences) of the Peru 30 group. We tapped into our upbringing, families, music and spirituality. She left me with podcasts to listen to and books to read. I made sure to thank Robin for having shared, and of course, for having reciprocated the listening ear. One on one experiences like this have become some of my favorite moments in Peru thus far. Especially considering the whirlwind that is PST, full of information, noise, commotion, group work, and lectures. Each serves a purpose and each provides a lesson to be learned.